Royal Reels: Gambling


The above paper appeared on an Australian auction site and the reverse had a blue Legislative Council crest of Tasmania on the flap. The vendor had identified the sender’s manuscript as C.H. Grant, at top left on the front. The Hobart duplex read: HOBART/ A/ OC 8/ 97/ P-R, and there was also a red TASMANIA/ OFFICIAL/ PAID mark. The cover was addressed to A.W. Pearse Esq, 6 Spring Street, Sydney (Figure 1).

Charles Henry Grant was identified at the Parliament of Tasmania website with a minimum of information, certainly not suggesting a significant contribution to the colony nor the future Australian Federation. The site listed: ‘Title and Honours: Mr.’; ‘Qualifications: (left blank)’; ‘ Date and Place of Birth: 9 November 1831 – Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England’; ‘Date of Death: 30 September 1901 – Hobart, Tasmania’. ‘Legislative Council: 24 June 1892′. ‘Electorate: Hobart’; ‘Party: Independent’; ‘Positions Held: (left blank)’; ‘Minister: No’; ‘Date of Departure: 30 September 1901′; ‘Reason for Departure: Died in office’; ‘Comments: (left blank)’; ‘House of Assembly Long Room Picture: 232′. Well, they did supply his full name, but he obviously did not have much impact on the Parliament. The photograph (from the aforementioned Long Room Picture) did not do justice to him (Figure 2).

The usually helpful Archives Search Portal for the Colonial Tasmanian Family Links detail was even more sketchy, for it gave his Gender as Male, his Birth details were left blank, Marriage/ Relationship: 1878 – Hobart, Tasmania (Nicholls, Jane), and the Family Information identified their children as one daughter, Caroline Grace born in 1875, and two sons, Charles William in 1878 and Frederick George in 1879. That’s all!

Two more pieces of information (which seemed at first inconsequential) were derived by trolling the ether, for he was at some undated periods the president of the Chamber of Commerce in Hobart, and his occupation was described as the manager of the Main Line Railways Company. The town of Granton (formerly South Bridgewater) was named after him, so it sounded as if he was getting some respect.

Serendipity struck me at a site showing a souvenir of the Inauguration of the Australian Commonwealth in 1901, for in a long list of Colonial signatories of ‘The Australian Commonwealth Convention Members Roll, Signature of Delegates’, Charles Henry Grant was one of ten from Tasmania, which included two Tasmanian Knights (Sir Philip Oakley Fish and Sir Edward Nicholas Coventry Braddon), who seemed to be worthy company to keep.

Further information came in at snail’s pace, with this titbit from a Women’s Suffragette site: Mr. Grant from Tasmania thought that women were more “subject to emotional or hysterical influences” than men, although he had always been, he assured them, in favour of female suffrage since “before many members of the Convention were born.” No comment!

At this stage I realised there were two places I had not probed, the Australian Dictionary of Biography and the Cyclopedia of Tasmania. I purposely decided to delay researching either for I wanted to enter the world of speculation. I had found a possible link between Charles Grant and the recipient of his letter, Mr. A.W. Pearse, over and above the fact that one was writing to the other. Both men were passionately involved with railways, and although A.W. Pearse’s Australian States monograph, Failure of State Ownership of Railways and Comparisons with Canada, Argentina and Sweden, was published in 1909 after Grant’s death in 1901, Grant could have been well aware of Pearse’s extensive railway research, which would have taken years to complete (Figure 3).

The Australian Dictionary of Biography (Volume 9, pp. 74-75) confirmed Grant’s long-term expertise as a railway engineer: he worked in Robert Stevenson’s London engineering office from 1847 to 1866; in the late 1860’s he worked on railway construction in the USA; in 1872 he was appointed engineer to the Tasmanian Main Line Railway Co. superintending construction of the line between Hobart and Launceston; after the completion of the railway in 1876, he served as its general manager, until the line’s purchase by the government in 1890; in 1892, he floated the Hobart Electric Tramway Co. in London, and was in charge of its construction; in 1893, he was responsible for the construction of the Zeehan Tramway Co.; and, he was a government appointed member of a board to investigate the Victorian Railways in 1896. To cap all this, as a Tasmanian delegate to the 1897 Federal Convention, he confined himself mainly to railway matters.

Speculation on my part, no, it is almost certain that Grant knew and corresponded with Pearse because of their railway connections.

Categories: Political